- Hampton Creek is getting negative press after the company reported funding struggles and executive-level layoffs, according to Project Nosh. Company CEO Josh Tetrick fired his CFO, COO and HR chief last week. The company's vice president of business affairs announced his resignation Monday.
- The San Francisco-based vegan startup is said to be having a hard time finding investors despite being valued at greater than $1 billion. Tetrick is in the midst of trying to raise $150 million, but so far has only seen commitments of $7 million, according to Bloomberg.
- The company has struggled to stay afloat since Unilever and the FDA contested its use of the term "mayonnaise" on its eggless, vegan sandwich spread. Hampton Creek also was accused of hiring contractors to buy products from store shelves to inflate sales, though the SEC eventually decided it hadn't broken the law.
Last fall, Hampton Creek was close to finalizing a funding round that would have seen the maker of mayo, dressing, cookies and cookie dough bring in close to $1.1 billion. The financing quickly fizzled when Bloomberg published a story that the company ran a large-scale operation in which contract employees would buy Just Mayo and other products from retailers in an effort to drive up its popularity.
In March, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Justice Department both ended their investigation on the alleged improprieties. No action was taken against Hampton Creek. But by then, the damage had been done, and the company was no longer a darling among investors.
Still, the company has managed to avoid major problems.Through the years, Hampton Creek has triumphed over lawsuits, improper ad targeting from the American Egg Board and scrutiny about health claims from the Food and Drug Administration.
Anytime a company is tied to a scandal — whether found innocent or not — its reputation is damaged. There have been cases of companies bouncing back after big problems — whether it's a food company after a major recall, a leadership scandal or major problems behind the scenes.
Only time will tell if Hampton Creek will be able to overcome its past. The company is undergoing a multiyear rebrand of its products, beginning with packaging, in order to please the FDA. The agency felt the "just" on its "Just Mayo" label needed to be altered so that it didn't act as a modifier, which could confuse consumers about the product's contents. Still, the recent executive reshuffling doesn't bode well, and could continue to ward off investors from the one-time food industry darling.